The atrium, which also existed at Strings, was largely left in tact, as well. "It's like an intimate, sneak-away vacation -- like those back-alley spaces in New Orleans," says Huggard, who adds that he's already getting bookings from groups who want to reserve the sunlit space.
Humboldt's main dining room, hued in shades of grey and sage, is furbished with banquettes and dark wooden tables, a showstopping circular booth that faces the patio and a kitchen community table that squats right next to the open line (complete with a gleaming oyster bar). And the kitchen is commanded by executive chef DJ Nagle, the opening exec chef of North, in Cherry Creek, and chef de cuisine Kollin Gately, who cooked at Madison Street, now TAG Burger Bar.
"This is simple, honest, good, clean food that's chef-driven," says Huggard. "We already have a lot of sustainable businesses that have been around for ten, twenty, forty years, and we're putting dishes on the menu that we hope will still be on there in twenty years. We want to be the kind of restaurant that people come back to week after week -- the kind of restaurant that guests come back to because they have a favorite dish, or a favorite bottle of wine that no one else has," he notes.
And Nagle, says Huggard, is a "huge food geek" who lives for cooking. "This is a really passionate chef who sends me texts in the middle of the night about a vegetable that we've never seen before but that he wants to work with. He and Kollin are just amazing, and they have this incredible energy and creativity," adds Huggard.
The menu, which is largely focused on sustainable seafood, includes everything from oysters on the half shell and charboiled oysters topped with tarragon-lemon butter to shrimp cocktail and a whole fish plated with a pickled vegetable ponzu. "I was a chef on Nantucket for years, so I'm slightly oyster-obsessed, and we knew we wanted to have oysters on the menu, because they're the perfect accompaniment to any meal, but the jumbo shrimp cocktail, the smoked trout dip, the tuna crudo -- they're all fantastic," says Huggard.
Steaks, including the classic Steak Diane; burgers; sandwiches; salads; pastas; and small plates round out the super-approachable board that, thankfully, doesn't resort to a pomp-and-circumstance listacle pimping every farmer, fisherman, rancher or purveyor on the planet. "We're cooking with integrity and honesty, but there's no reason to shove that down people's throats," declares Huggard. Amen to that.